St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Nasal CPAP

    Continuous positive airway pressure; CPAP; Bilevel positive airway pressure; BiPAP; Autotitrating positive airway pressure; APAP; nCPAP

    CPAP stands for "continuous positive airway pressure." CPAP is a treatment that delivers slightly pressurized air during the breathing cycle.

    This keeps the windpipe open during sleep and prevents episodes of blocked breathing in persons with obstructive sleep apnea and other breathing problems.

    It is sometimes called nasal continuous positive airflow pressure (nCPAP).



    Continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) is the best treatment for most people with obstructive sleep apnea. It is safe and effective in patients of all ages, including children. If you only have mild sleep apnea and do not feel very sleepy during the day, you may not need to use it.

    After using CPAP regularly, many patients report the following:

    • Better concentration and memory
    • Feeling more alert and less sleepy during the day
    • Improved sleep for the person's bed partner
    • Improvements in work productivity
    • Less anxiety and depression and a better mood
    • Normal sleep patterns
    • Improvement in heart and blood vessel problems, such as high blood pressure

    A similar machine, called BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) is used as an alternative to CPAP. With this machine, the pressure changes while a person breathes in and out.

    These devices are useful for children and adults with collapsible airways, small lung volumes, or muscle weakness that makes it difficult to breathe, such as muscular dystrophy.

    CPAP or BiPAP may also be used by people who have:

    • Acute respiratory failure
    • Central sleep apnea
    • COPD
    • Heart failure


    CPAP works in the following way:

    • The device is a machine weighing about 5 pounds that fits on a bedside table.
    • A mask fits over the nose. A tube connects the mask to the CPAP device.
    • The machine delivers a steady stream of air under slight pressure through this tube into the mask.

    CPAP will be started while you are in the sleep center for the night. Sometimes, it can be started on the same night you have your sleep study.

    The doctor, nurse, or therapist will help choose the mask that fits you best. They will also help adjust the settings on the machine while you are asleep. The settings on the CPAP machine depend on the severity of your sleep apnea.

    If you are using the CPAP machine but your sleep apnea symptoms do not improve, the settings on the machine may need to be changed. Some patients can be taught to adjust the CPAP at home. Otherwise, you will need to make trips to the sleep center.

    CPAP works by steadily increasing pressure in your airway. Newer devices, called autotitrating positive airway pressure (APAP), can respond to changes in pressure in your airway as they occur. This may be more comfortable, and it also can help you avoid overnight stays and other trips to the hospital.


    It can take time to become used to a CPAP device. The first few nights of CPAP therapy are often the hardest. Some patients may sleep less or not sleep well at the start of treatment.

    Patients who are having problems may tend not to use CPAP for the whole night, or even stop using the device. However, it is important to use the machine for the entire night or for as long as possible.

    Common complaints include:

    • A feeling of being closed in (claustrophobia)
    • Chest muscle discomfort, which usually goes away after awhile
    • Eye irritation
    • Irritation and sores over the bridge of the nose
    • Nasal congestion and sore or dry mouth
    • Noise that interferes with sleep (although most machines are quiet)
    • Nosebleeds
    • Upper respiratory infections

    Many of these problems can be helped or prevented by the following methods:

    • Ask your doctor or therapist about using a mask that is lightweight and cushioned. Some masks are used only around or inside the nostrils.
    • Make sure the mask fits correctly. It should not be too tight or too loose, and it should not leak any air.
    • Try nasal salt water sprays for a stuffed nose.
    • Use a humidifier to help with dry skin or nasal passages.
    • Keep your CPAP equipment clean.
    • Place your CPAP machine underneath your bed.

    Your doctor or therapist can lower the pressure on the CPAP machine and then increase it again at a slow pace. Some new machines can automatically adjust to the pressure that is needed.


    McArdle N, Singh B, Murphy M. Continuous positive airway pressure titration for obstructive sleep apnoea: automatic versus manual titration. Thorax. 2010;65:606-611.

    Tomfohr LM, Ancoli-Israel S, Loredo JS, Dimsdale JE. Effects of continuous positive airway pressure on fatigue and sleepiness in patients with obstructive sleep apnea: data from a randomized controlled trial. Sleep. 2011;34:121-126.

    Basner RC. Continuous positive airway pressure for obstructive sleep apnea. N Engl J Med. 2007;356:1751-1758.

    Epstein LJ, Kristo D, Strollo PJ Jr., et al.; Obstructive Sleep Apnea Task Force of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Clinical guideline for the evaluation, management, and long-term care of obstructive sleep apnea in adults. J Clin Sleep Med. 2009;5:263-276.


    • Nasal CPAP


      • Nasal CPAP


      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

            Tests for Nasal CPAP

              Review Date: 7/31/2011

              Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

              A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

              Back  |  Top
              About Us
              Contact Us
              Locations & Directions
              Quality Reports
              Annual Reports
              Honors & Awards
              Community Health Needs

              Brain & Spine
              Sleep Medicine
              Urgent Care
              Women's Services
              All Services
              Patients & Visitors
              Locations & Directions
              Find a Physician
              Tour St. Luke's
              Patient & Visitor Information
              Contact Us
              Payment Options
              Financial Assistance
              Send a Card
              Mammogram Appointments
              Health Tools
              My Personal Health
              Spirit of Women
              Health Information & Tools
              Clinical Trials
              Employer Programs -
              Passport to Wellness

              Classes & Events
              Classes & Events
              Spirit of Women
              Donate & Volunteer
              Giving Opportunities
              Physicians & Employees
              For Physicians
              Remote Access
              Medical Residency Information
              Pharmacy Residency Information
              Physician CPOE Training
              St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
              Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile